Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gettin' jiggy with reporter Lindsay Abrams's Atlantic article about my father

A couple of weeks ago, my trusty Google News robot sent me a link to this story:

Here are the first few paragraphs:

Atlantic reporter Lindsay Abrams's article -- a concise, thorough round-up of my father's bizarre career -- could just as well have been titled, "What was left out of Radiolab's Heimlich story." (More about that in a future item.)

But this sentence didn't ring true:

Although I doubt that my father invented what came to be known as the Heimlich Valve...
"I don't think my father invented anything," Peter said, "but his own mythology." (source)
...I can't recall any published information that supported Ms. Abrams's statement, so in a March 11 e-mail, I asked her:
Would you please provide your source(s) for that statement? That is, who has claimed my father may not have invented the Heimlich Valve?
To which she promptly replied:
I thought I had saw [sic] it on your site, but if that's not the case I'm going to have to go back through my notes to find exactly where this was. In the meantime, I've temporarily removed that claim until I can be sure I can accurately source it.
Here's the updated paragraph as of then:

Over a week later, the article was the same, so I e-mailed Ms. Abrams re: the status of the correction, to which she promptly replied:
I have not been able to locate the original source of that claim. I believe that it was originally intended to be a reference to this story from Radar Magazine, which refers to a different controversy concerning the Heimlich valve: http://medfraud.info/Radar_Outmaneuvered_11-05.html

The correction, once again, has been appended to the piece -- thank you again for bringing it to my attention.
That's when things started gettin' jiggy.

Contrary to her "once again" claim, this was the first I'd heard about an "appended correction."

But jiggier still?

There was no appended correction on the article.

Assuming she'd erred and simply neglected to post the correction, I replied:
Not sure if it's my browser's cache pulling up an older version (of your article), but I don't see the noted correction on the story. Can you send me a screenshot of that, please?
No reply, so the next day I wrote her:
Not to be a nag, but I first brought this to your attention on March 11 (see e-mails below my signature), so I'd like to wrap this up, preferably by the end of today. 

Via your previous e-mail: 

The correction, once again, has been appended to the piece...

My eyesight isn't what it used to be, but this morning I viewed your article in three different web browsers and I couldn't find an appended correction. I've attached a time-stamped copy of the print version from this morning which doesn't include it.
Still no reply.

Quick sidetrack via her article:

Tired of playing dodge ball with Ms. Abrams -- who, based on her resume, should know better -- I took it upstairs to Atlantic editor James Bennet and to Natalie Raape, the magazine's Communications Director.


And yesterday afternoon, this appended correction did finally appear:

But wait, there's more!

Today I noticed that this part of her article was expanded from this:

To this:

I thought that was interesting and that Ms. Abrams might be interested in learning more. So about an hour ago, I phoned her, but she said she wasn't interested in receiving more information.

Oh, and the appended correction has also been expanded:

Incidentally, about that photo used in the article, here's the cutline:

Click here to see the entire photo.

Isn't that the late actress/dancer Gwen Verdon? I'll try to find out.

If so, maybe I can score yet another update on Ms. Abrams's article!

3/27/13 UPDATE: Not Gwen Verdon or even close! In response to my inquiry, Paul Colford, Director of Media Relations at the Associated Press, replied, "The woman is Dorothy Allen of Halifax, Mass."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Heimlich "family friend" Stan Chesley disbarred today by Kentucky Supreme Court

This is an update to my June 15, 2011 item, Disbarment recommended for Heimlich "family friend" Stan Chesley.

Via Superlawyer Stanley Chesley Disbarred Over Fen-Phen Scam by Daniel Fischer, Forbes, March 21, 2013: 
The Kentucky Supreme Court today permanently disbarred lawyer Stanley Chesley, the prominent tort lawyer and Democratic Party kingmaker who got entangled in a scandal over fen-phen litigation that sent two other lawyers to jail and ended the legal career of the judge who approved the settlement.

The disbarment is a professional fiasco for Chesley, who rose to prominence as a mass-tort litigator and is married to U.S. District Judge Susan Diott. Under a reciprocal agreement with Kentucky, he might also lose his license to practice law in Ohio.

In the first letter, did you catch that "meet with you in a positive vain"?

Incidentally, if any reporters are reading this and want to know the contents and context of my phone conversations with Chesley -- the ones he references in the letters -- feel free to get in touch. 

Or try his cell.

From ‘Master of Disaster’ Helps Finance Heimlich Campaign by Kevin Osborne, Cincinnati CityBeat, August 16, 2006
Stan Chesley has a reputation as a "limousine liberal" who provides copious amounts of money to Democratic issues and candidates, but one of the nationally renowned lawyer's latest pet causes is helping re-elect arch-conservative Hamilton County Commission President Phil Heimlich.

Campaign finance records show that Chesley has donated $12,500 to Heimlich's campaign.

...Chesley also has ties to Heimlich and Hamilton County government. Chesley is representing Hamilton County in its legal challenges against the Bengals and the National Football League about the construction and lease terms of the county-owned Paul Brown Stadium. The county alleged the team and the NFL violated anti-trust laws by using trade restraints to force the county to pay far more to build the $458 million stadium than a free marketplace would have required.

...Also, Chesley held a fundraiser for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro in his failed Republican gubernatorial bid. Heimlich was briefly Petro's running mate. Later, Petro appointed Chesley's law firm to represent the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority in its lawsuit against a pension investment fund.
From Heimlich Family Feud: Commissioner offers to settle 'defamation' claim by Kevin Osborne, Cincinnati CityBeat, November 1, 2006
As if the reelection campaign of Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich hasn't had enough trouble in recent weeks, CityBeat has learned that Heimlich's insurance company offered a $3,000 payment to settle a claim that the commissioner allegedly defamed his estranged brother.

Phil Heimlich's brother, Peter, has rejected the offer and is instead demanding a public retraction and apology from the commissioner for telling newspaper reporters and others that Peter has mental problems.

..."For some time Phil has been circulating false and defamatory statements about me," says Peter, who lives in an Atlanta suburb with his wife, Karen Shulman. "For instance, last year Phil told an Enquirer reporter that I 'had a history of mental illness and that the family was dealing with it.'
"My reputation's not for sale, and I think smearing somebody to stop them from telling the truth is contemptible. Phil has a history of stepping on people. This time he went too far."

From Phil Heimlich Registers As City Hall Lobbyist: Dead GOP Political Career Puts Heimlich to Work For Concrete Company by Bill Sloat, The Daily Bellwether, October 6, 2010
Almost four years after he was voted out of office as a Hamilton County Commissioner, Phil Heimlich is back, or sort of back. The one-time star of conservative GOP politics in SW Ohio has signed on as a City Hall legislative agent -- lobbyist -- for Hilltop Companies, which runs a ready mixed concrete business in Cincinnati.
...The new gig for Heimlich -- the son of Dr. Henry Heimlich -- marks another leg on the long downward trajectory of his political career. In 2006, Heimlich was riding high and was the running mate of former Ohio Atty. Gen. Jim Petro, who wanted to move into the governor's mansion. Their campaign flopped. Heimlich quit the ticket and sought reelection as commissioner. He was whipped by Democrat David Pepper. Two years ago, Heimlich tried to run for Congress in OH-02 against Jean Schmidt. He quit that race, too.
From Chesley Inc. by Lucy May, Cincinnati Business Courier, December 6, 2004
In the (1994) American Lawyer article, Seattle attorney Leonard Schroeter called Chesley "the ultimate grotesque, exaggerated perversion of what it means to be a lawyer."

He is no more charitable now.

"I've known him for 40 years, and I've always thought he was an opportunist and just a nasty son of a bitch."

This item has been slightly updated.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cincinnati Biz Courier publishes, then disappears article with unflattering information about my father that was reported by NPR's Radiolab and The Atlantic -- and the paper's editor (who teaches journalism) ain't talking

Screen capture from Bing.com News search showing now-scrubbed article
Via Dr. Henry Heimlich's reputation hangs in the balance by staff reporter James Ritchie, a March 14 item published on the website of the Cincinnati Business Courier, one of the papers owned by American City Business Journals:
The name of Dr. Henry Heimlich, for whom the choking first-aid maneuver is named, is known worldwide.

But recent news coverage questions what his legacy will be. 

The Atlantic notes that the world "may not remember him at all, as 'abdominal thrust' is now the term of choice of the Red Cross and the American Heart Association for the life-saving response to choking victims."

...As the Atlantic reported, Heimlich "wasn't content just to be a household name" after he introduced the Heimlich Maneuver in 1974. He began promoting it for asthma attacks and drowning victims. Then he began running experiments in developing countries to see if inducing malaria in AIDS patients could cure them.

Radiolab's Pat Walters recently devoted a podcast to Heimlich, whose move once saved his life.

Though he was once a big fan of Heimlich, he didn't like what he found.

"When I think about my kids...when they learn this thing, it won't be called the Heimlich maneuver," he said. "And based on what I know now, I really don't think that I would tell them to call it that."
Sometime over the next few days, the story was completely scrubbed from the site without any published explanation.

And the paper's long-time editor -- and part-time journalism teacher at Ohio's Miami University -- Rob Daumeyer, is refusing to answer questions.

Here's what the original article looked like -- click here to download a full-size version:

Via the original URL, http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/blog/2013/03/dr-henry-heimlichs-reputation-hangs.html, here's what replaced it:

At the time of publication, reporter James Ritchie, the paper's managing editor, Lisa Benson, and the Business Courier thought the story was worth chirping about:


So why did Ritchie's story get censored and who gave the order?

Having some previous experience with how Daumeyer runs the paper -- more about that in a future item -- I had a pretty good guess, so yesterday I sent these questions to the paper:
1) I'd like a yes or no answer re: whether anyone from Deaconess* or the Heimlich Institute or anyone representing my father contacted the paper about your item.

2) If yes, may I please be provided with the name(s)?

3) I'd like to know the precise time your item was taken offline, which Business Courier employee was responsible for the decision to take it offline, and why it was taken down.

I'd welcome any additional information the Business Courier wishes to provide.
The response?
From: "Robert Daumeyer" <rdaumeyer@bizjournals.com>
Date: 3/18/2013 2:49 PM
To: <peter.heimlich@gmail.com>
CC: "Lisa Benson" <lisabenson@bizjournals.com>, "James Ritchie" <jritchie@bizjournals.com>

Peter ... This is Rob Daumeyer, I'm editor at the Business Courier ... I don't have any additional information to add for you.



Sent from my iPhone
* In June 1998, The Heimlich Institute became a member of Deaconess Associations Inc., to help advance and promote the mission and vision of The Heimlich Institute in perpetuity. (source)

More to come....

Update: via On Second Thought by Ben Kaufman, Cincinnati CityBeat, March 19, 2012
Why did Cincinnati Business Courier take down its online story about Henry Heimlich’s attempts to save his reputation and that of his Heimlich Maneuver? Granted, it wasn’t flattering, but it didn’t go beyond what Curmudgeon has reported. Reporter James Ritchie forwarded my request for an explanation and editor Rob Daumeyer responded, “Thanks for asking, but we don't have anything to add for you.”

Hat tip to Bwannah Bob. This item has been slightly revised and updated.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Widely-syndicated NPR program Radiolab reports that my father -- an animal rights icon -- "jammed pieces of meat down" the throats of dogs

I reported about this last year, but a new radio report about my father's career gives me an excuse for a re-visit.

The Man Behind the Maneuver, produced and reported by Pat Walters, aired last week on a program called Radiolab.

Via their website:

You want boundary-blurring? Read on....

From An Illustrated History of Heimlich, a graphic timeline that accompanied the Radiolab story:

Graphic by Larry Buchanan

Here's an audio snip from the show describing how my father "laid the dog down on the operating table and then he jams this piece of meat down the dog's throat":

More details via A Life-Saving Maneuver to Prevent Food-Choking by Henry J. Heimlich, MD, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), October 27, 1975 (emphasis added):
Four beagles, weighing 17 kg (38 lb) each, were anesthetized with thiamylal (Surital) sodium given intravenously. A cuffed, No. 32 endotracheal tube, the lumen plugged by a rubber stopper, was inserted under direct vision through the mouth into the larynx. The cuff was distended with 3 to 4 ml of air, causing total obstruction of the trachea, simulating a bolus of food caught in the human larynx. The animal immediately went into respiratory distress, as evidenced by spasmodic paradoxical respiratory movements of the chest and diaphragm.

...Subsequently, I pressed the palm of my hand deeply and firmly upward into the abdomen of the animal a short distance below the rib cage, thereby pushing against the diaphragm. The endotracheal tube (bolus) popped out of the trachea. After several labored respirations, the dog resumed breathing. The experiment was repeated more than 20 times on each animal with the same result. The clinical situation was then simulated by inserting a bolus of raw hamburger into the dog's larynx until the respiratory passage was totally occluded. The abdominal pressure maneuver was repeated and, in each instance, after one or two compressions, the bolus was ejected from the larynx and normal respiratory exchange was established.
Incidentally, there's no mention of string being tied to the meat and it's unclear how a piece of string could be tied to "a bolus of raw hamburger."

What makes this more interesting is that, according to the LA Weekly, since 1986 my father's been on the medical advisory board of the Washington, DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and every couple of years PCRM presents the Henry J. Heimlich Award for Innovative Medicine.

Via an article last year in the Wayne State University student newspaper:
Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for PCRM, said the group’s interest is scientifically and medically based.

 ...PCRM is opposed to and seeks to ban the use of animals in medical research in all forms, Pippin said, because such research is “a fraud.”
Since his 1974 research using the beagles, my father has claimed to have seen the errors of his ways and has represented himself as an advocate against the use of animals in medical research.

For example, from a May 1990 speech he gave at the Animal Experimentation Alternatives Conference in Tel Aviv:
This useless sacrificial research can be stopped if we take time, and use the press, which is very friendly.
However, only a couple of years ago, my father's Heimlich Institute donated $615,000 to the University of Cincinnati for cancer research using mice. As I reported, PCRM then quietly scrubbed the Heimlich Institute from their list of approved charities.

Here's a good question that animal activists may wish to ask Dr. Pippin and PCRM founder/president Neal Barnard MD.

Why is my father still on their organization's board?

Source (screenshot from today)

A request to Sidebar readers: Over the years, I've sent a number of courteous inquiries to Drs. Pippin and Barnard and PCRM's media representatives, but I've never received a single reply. If anyone wishes to ask PCRM for an explanation why my father is still on their board, I'd welcome copies of any correspondence.

Click here for PCRM's contact information. Click here for mine.

This item has been slightly revised.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Via the Heimlich Archives, letters documenting my father being fired from Jewish Hospital in 1977

As I reported last week, a recent Heimlich Institute press release opened the door to one of the nastiest skeletons in my father's closet, his relationships with a string of doctors who lost their licenses for extreme over-prescribing of narcotics, two of whom did jail stretches.

Melinda Zemper (source)

Now Melinda Zemper of Oak (who does PR for the Heimlich Institute), my father, and Patrick Ward of Deaconess Associations (the parent company of the Heimlich Institute), have again handed me an opportunity to report about another of my father's most closely-held secrets.

A couple year ago, my father and Ward donated my father's archives to the University of Cincinnati Medical School library:

A couple weeks ago, Ms. Zemper issued another Heimlich Institute press release, this one promoting "Heimlich Heroes," a first aid training program being conducted in Ohio schools by the Heimlich Institute.

What interested me was the accompanying photo:

It's the white lab coat.

It's been over 35 years since my father had a reason to wear one in a professional capacity.

Via Radar magazine:
(In the mid-1970s, Dr.) Heimlich's career as a surgeon was drawing to an ignominious close. There had been at least one incident when he passed out at the operating table, leaving another surgeon to finish the job. Heimlich was having trouble obtaining malpractice insurance, Peter (Heimlich) claims, and his personality hadn't endeared him to the rest of the Jewish Hospital staff. In 1976 he left the hospital.
Two corrections, courtesy of documents from the Heimlich Archives.

First, the year my father left Jewish Hospital was 1977.

Second, he didn't just leave. He got canned.

57 years old at the time, my father quit practicing surgery, never again maintained a medical practice, and spent the rest of his career as a celebrity doctor.

Updated 3/12/13: The Cincinnati Post got it wrong: